George Boardman: Scofield does something almost unheard of in public affairs these days |

George Boardman: Scofield does something almost unheard of in public affairs these days

Observations from the center stripe: New record edition

I SET a new personal record recently driving the speed limit on Highway 49 from Combie Road to Lime Kiln. There must have been at least 20 cars behind me when the road widened to two lanes … DO YOU feel you’ve left something important behind — like a baby — when you leave your cell phone in the car? I don’t … CAN PARENTS get a partial refund of their taxes if their high school “graduate” has to take remedial classes in college? … BE GLAD you don’t sell razor blades: Young guys prefer stubble while a mustache and beard are becoming de rigueur for older guys …

Supervisor Ed Scofield deserves credit for abandoning his staunch opposition to cannabis in Nevada County and reaching out to the pro-pot forces to reach a compromise everybody can live with.

In a thoughtful “Other Voices” article in The Union, Scofield wrote that since the defeat of Measure W — a ban on outdoor cultivation of marijuana — “I have tried to be more open minded about cannabis cultivation in our community.”

Scofield wrote that he is willing to concede that pot offers a significant revenue stream for the county, that many growers want to be good citizens, that it should be reasonably easy to obtain necessary permits, and that a reasonable transition period may be needed.

But in return, pro-pot forces need to concede that pot cultivation creates quality-of-life, law enforcement, and environmental problems that some proponents aren’t willing to acknowledge. “We need to start with the points we can all agree on first and then work together to resolve the differences thereafter,” Scofield wrote.

Scofield is particularly concerned that “many growers will continue to pay no attention to government, environmental, and neighborhood ethics.” But legitimate advocates like the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance won’t be able to control the outlaw element. The reality is that no ordinance will end the conflict between law enforcement and illegal growers.

Then there’s the issue of slow walking the adoption of a local cultivation ordinance. A lot people are upset the process is taking so long, especially since the supervisors came up with an emergency ordinance banning cultivation in record time. Attorney General Jeff Sessions may still throw the anti-pot forces a Hail Mary pass, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Scofield has put forth a principled proposal that deserves a serious response. He is willing to set aside a strong personal aversion to pot in an effort to find a middle ground that will work for Nevada County.

Nobody is more surprised by this outreach than me, a persistent critic of his positions in the almost four years I’ve been writing this column. But I now see Ed Scofield in a new light — heck, I might even vote for him if he seeks another term in office. (Well, we’ll see.)

Your tax dollars

Rep. Tom McClintock was one of three California Republican congressmen who voted against the House tax “reform” bill that’s going to cost Californians another $114 billion in taxes, and he really didn’t have to oppose the measure.

The other two representatives who voted “no” on the bill — Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa — face tough re-election prospects next year, and cynical observers suspect they weren’t interested in alienating the more prosperous residents of their districts. McClintock had no such concerns, but put forth the novel idea that tax cuts should benefit everybody.

The 11 other GOP representatives from the state voted for the measure, including the leadership’s dependable foot soldier, Doug LaMalfa, who apparently has plenty of constituents who just take the standard federal tax deduction instead of itemizing.

But for those of us who like to itemize deductions, life is going to get more expensive if the Senate adopts the provisions in the House bill: You won’t be able to deduct state and local taxes from your federal return, the property tax deduction is capped at $10,000, and you won’t be able to deduct mortgage interest or medical expenses.

Republicans have to do something to offset the breaks they’re giving corporations and wealthy individuals to keep the hit to the national debt under $1.5 trillion. Besides, cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent will lead to an increase of at least $4,000 a year in average household income, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Nobody outside the White House believes that, including the Treasury Department and Congressional Budget Office. That includes corporate executives like Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, who said the savings are “probably likely to go back to shareholders” in the form of stock buy-backs and increased dividends.

But in fairness to LaMalfa, it should be pointed out that he’s not just targeting the wealthier constituents in his district. The poorest working residents he represents will not do well under this version of tax reform, and LaMalfa has voted in the past to cut spending on food stamps.

Free for all

There’s been a lot of loose talk recently about making a California college education free of charge — or as some people frame the proposition, a debt-free education — so money won’t stop anyone who wants an education.

Such a policy would cause a rush on our already crowded higher education system. Freshman applications to the state college system increased by almost 100,000 students between 2005 and 2015, a time when CSU was cutting back on freshman and transfer admissions. Nearly 80,000 qualified students were turned away during that period, according to Children Now, an education advocacy group.

Things weren’t much better in the UC system, especially for the children of California taxpayers. Resident applications to UC increased by 66,000, or 57 percent, between 2005 and 2015, but admission rates for residents declined from 86 percent to 59 percent during that period. UC said it wanted a more diverse student body. It also wanted the higher tuition paid by out-of-state and foreign students.

While the number of students heading to college continues to increase, a skills gap has left more than six million jobs unfilled, according to the Labor Department. That’s because there are too many people in our state colleges now who think they want a college education but have no real clue about they want to do, or they’ve been pressured by family expectations into attending college.

For starters, anybody who needs to take remedial courses has no business in a four-year school, even if those schools are going to solve the problem by folding the remedial work into regular courses. Those students should be in community colleges, where they get a low-cost opportunity to show how serious they are about a college education.

We should also more actively promote blue-collar trades to students who aren’t college material while doing more to remove the “stigma” of not going to college. House Republicans are about to introduce a new education act that will not please a lot of liberals, but it will direct funding to community colleges that team up with the private sector and create apprenticeships.

Do we really need more graduates with useless degrees? No, but we do need more skilled plumbers, electricians and others who can operate increasingly sophisticated machinery — skills that will enable them to make a good living without wearing a suit to work. Leave college to the people who should really be there.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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